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6 Signs You Should Be Leery About Eating From That Food Truck

Mobile eateries might be the latest food craze, but that doesn't mean they're safe.

They’re popular for a reason. With dirt cheap, on-trend food — like Indian-inspired pizza, Korean-style tacos, or cornbread waffles with chili — food trucks have rolled into virtually every urban center across the United States. You’ll even find a few of the country’s 15,000 or so food trucks in small towns.

So if the food’s good, what’s the problem? For some, it’s the fact that these trucks produce an enormous amount of food in a kitchen that’s a fraction of the size of a regular restaurant.

That in itself shouldn’t be an issue, though. In most major cities, food trucks are held to strict hygiene standards. They undergo inspections just like restaurants.

But as with restaurants, some are cleaner than others. Though the old days of so-called "roach coaches" are long gone, eating the meals food trucks are serving up isn't always safe. Here's what to look out for.

No gloves.

Most people think their biggest worry is eating undercooked meat. But in fact, you’re more likely to get sick from employees with poor hygiene practices. Eating food that’s been contaminated by an employee’s dirty hands is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness.

Employees should always wear gloves when touching food. But they also need to change their gloves after they’ve touched raw food. Otherwise, they risk transferring bacteria from their gloves to your meal.

Seeing a food truck employee handle something without gloves needn’t be an absolute deal breaker — legally, they’re not required everywhere — but they are a good sign that the business takes hygiene seriously.

Dirty hands.

Employees who don’t wear gloves should be keeping food safe with utensils and regular hand-washing. When the latter is ignored, it’s easy to tell. Dirt under the nails is a dead giveaway. Nails, too, need to be clipped short to limit dirt buildup.

Loose hair.

Employees should wear hairnets, or keep their hair tied back. Otherwise, they’ll have to keep touching their hair to move it out of their face. That’s a bad sign — it could mean that their hands are contaminated with bacteria from touching their face. It’s also a sign that they’re not concerned about food safety rules.

Temperature issues.

When it comes to food trucks, temperature issues are among the most common violations. Hot food should be very hot, while cold salads should be just that — cold.

Cluttered sink.

If you have a view of the inside of the truck, try to spot the sink. You should be able to see a clear hand-washing station, including soap and towels. A sink stacked with dishes is not a good sign.

Ultimately, it's up to you to use your best judgment. If it looks dirty, how can you trust your food is clean?

[Image via Shutterstock]

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